In this first author's note I have a lot of stuff to say… if you don't mind reading it.
This is… what, my fourth version of this "what if Tahl survived New Apsolon" thing? The other versions had plot holes and lots of problems. This one… is working out well. You don't really need to have read The Death of Hope to understand this as long as you know what happened there.
NOTE: This is different from the original prologue you read. This will only impact the first few chapters, and everything else will go as anticipated. Trust me, you won't
Special thanks to Angel Wings-008 for beta-ing. You're the best!
Much thanks to The Tenth Bright Shiner for her friendship, patience, and support
Special thanks to my family for always being supportive ("you've been on the computer too long!")
Disclaimer: I do not own Jedi Apprentice or Star Wars.
They sat facing a plain wall, on plain meditation chairs, although he couldn't say the same for the state of their minds. Bant was the same reddish brown she had always been, short, and lightweight. Obi-Wan was taller, older, and had contemplative blue eyes. Bant wore a serious, furiously thinking expression. Obi-Wan's face was fairly clam, but a prodding concern turned his bright eyes dark. Neither of them had spoken for an hour. Meditation was not a time to talk. But they had had their time to think, and now both were prepared to speak.
"Are you happy your master is healing well?" Obi-Wan asked in a self possessed tone, one that deep meditation often left him in.
"Yes," Bant answered solicitously.
"But what?" Obi-Wan asked. Bant's unspoken worries hung in the air just out of reach. If he could persuade her to trust him, the great burden it left on her would be lifted off. He was a friend; he was the perfect person to help her. They had both felt the effects on a deplorable mission, one that left Tahl in an extremely weak condition. Friends could help push worries away. She just didn't seem to want to do that.
"It's different," Bant said, her voice brimming with sorrow.
Obi-Wan thought of Tahl; pale and frail and too depleted to open her eyes. "She's getting better. What's so different?"
"She's in love." Bant poured out the words. The statement brought a clutch of anxiousness to Obi-Wan, who struggled to push it aside. Bant was incredibly perceptive and knew her master well.
He swallowed a lump in his throat. He asked the obvious question, the one he was sure he knew the answer to. "With who?"
"She loves him a lot. Qui-Gon."
Master. He loves her, too. He almost went mad, saving her. He almost left me. "I know."
"I don't know what they're going to do." Bant put her head in her hands. "Tahl is so weak. She'll never be the Jedi she once was." Bant's voice rose a pitch in dismay. "Suppose they…" she trailed off. She looked up and blinked. Obi-Wan saw pain in her huge eyes. She ducked her head, her shoulders trembling. Obi-Wan reached over to put a hand on her shoulder. He sat there in silence, staring at the plain wall, trying to summon some comfort for Bant and himself. He couldn't convoke the smallest shred of help; he was too empty inside.
Long moments went by. Bant ceased shaking. She wouldn't cry; she didn't cry. Bant Eerin acknowledged her feelings, let them go, and continued. "She's left me at the Temple before. She'll do it again."
"She won't leave without Qui-Gon," said Obi-Wan confidently. "And he won't leave the Jedi… or me."
"The Council's mad at him."
"The Council's always mad at him."
"They'll be expelled."
Don't be ridiculous, he wanted to say, but he didn't say it. Nor did he say that he wasn't as sure that Qui-Gon would stay in the Order as he sounded. There were continuous minor spats, continuous testing of the rules and law and tradition… Qui-Gon fought for what he felt was right and was losing. He was losing faith in the Jedi and Republic, but he still had hope. Obi-Wan saw everything briefly in his face after every Jedi Council meeting. In addition, Qui-Gon believed Tahl's injury was his fault. And he loved her. His commitment was deeper than ever. Was it possible that was now his biggest commitment?
"They'll choose to do what they think is right," he told her. "And whatever happens, I'll be there to make sure you're never alone at the Temple."
That was his promise. He intended to keep it. But would Qui-Gon keep his promises? The promise he had made to train Obi-Wan? His vow to the Order?
"This is getting ridiculous," he grumbled under his breath.